A hammertoe is a bending of the toe at the first joint, called the proximal interphalangeal joint. This bending causes the toe to appear pointed, like an arrowhead when viewed from the side. Generally hammertoes affect the second through fifth toes, but the big toe can also be involved. Hammertoes are more common to females than males.
A hammertoe is formed from an abnormal balance of the muscles in the toes. This causes an increased pressure on the tendons and joints of the toe, leading to the bending. There are two types of hammertoes, flexible and rigid.
Flexible Hammertoes can be diagnosed and treated while still in the developmental stage. They are called flexible hammertoes because they are still moveable at the joint.
Rigid Hammertoes are more serious. Rigid hammertoes are found in patients with severe arthritis, or in patients who wait too long to seek medical attention. The tendons in a rigid hammertoe are tight, and the joint is misaligned and immobile. Surgery is the normal course of treatment.
Treatment for a hammertoe will vary with the type and severity of each, but again, identifying the condition early is critical to avoiding surgery. The longer you wait to seek medical attention the less chance you have of making a non-surgical treatment plan an option. Specialized padding and taping may be recommended, as could medication, orthotic devices and surgical options.